U.S. President Donald Trump faces a December 1 deadline if he wants to participate in the next phase of the congressional inquiry into whether he committed impeachable offenses.
The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on December 4 is scheduled to start public hearings that will cover the historical background and history of previous impeachment efforts and involve legal experts, especially on constitutional law.
"Our first task is to explore the framework put in place to respond to serious allegations of impeachable misconduct like those against President Trump," Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (Democrat-New York) said on November 26.
Three other House committees who've completed their part of fact gathering over a six-week period are drafting a report that will be handed to the Judiciary Committee after the Thanksgiving Day recess.
Based on the report's findings and the conclusion of public hearings beginning on December 4, the Judiciary Committee will decide whether to draft potential articles of impeachment or formal charges against the president.
At the heart of the inquiry is whether Trump committed "high crimes and misdemeanors," which is vaguely defined in the U.S. Constitution.
The allegations revolve around a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
House Democrats allege that Trump, a Republican, abused his office by eliciting assistance from a foreign government to investigate a political foe whom he could face in next year's presidential election.
They also accuse Trump of additional wrongdoing before and after the phone call with Zelenskiy.
Leading up to the call, Trump had withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine and during the phone call asked his interlocuter for a "favor."
Trump has described his call with Zelenskiy as "perfectly normal," and dismissed the impeachment investigation as a "hoax" and the congressional hearings as "a kangaroo court."
Fellow Republican lawmakers have also said the inquiry has vainly "searched for a crime" and characterize it as lacking in substance driven by partisan animus.
Trump has until 6 p.m. on December 1 to alert the Judiciary Committee of any plans to participate and notify it of any counsel who will represent him.